Jeremy Zawodny recently took a flying trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons and learned to very simple but important safety lessons that every pilot should be aware of. Shortly after refueling and taking off in Idaho and on the way home, a passenger noticed fuel streaming out of the left wing (she even took a video of it). After alerting the Tower and making an emergency landing, Jeremy had expected to find the fuel cap completely missing. Instead, he found the fuel cap on and on tight. However, the person who had refueled him had managed to put the cap on in such a way that only one of the two flanges was engaged below the rim. Hence and although the cap felt tight, there was a substantial vacuum created by the airflow to allow fuel to escape in flight.
Lesson learned: Its not sufficient enough to just make sure the fuel cap won’t turn anymore. You also need to pull up on the cap to ensure that it is actually on TIGHT
Jeremy then took off again and quickly had to return to the airport due to a second important lesson he learned:
Always check the fuel level after spewing gas in flight. It comes out a lot faster than you think (as confirmed by our mechanic later that evening).
Luckily, Jeremy was able to return safely to the airport with plenty of great photos and video from his trip and two very important safety lessons that could have been learned the hard way.
Good article and an important reminder to us all…
I always make sure I put the fuel caps back on myself if I've not done the fuelling myself. Just to be on the safe side.
A very experienced friend lost a fuel cap on our Extra at the weekend. It gets screwed in flush, but special care needs to be taken to ensure it is fully tightened (using a special 'key') or it is liable to unscrew itself during aeros, especially with negative G maneouvres. It doesn't take long for all the fuel to leave the wing tank after that, especially upside down.
I almost lost one on the Extra too after it wasn't tightened up by the last person to use the aircraft (and I didn't double-check it), it's slightly alarming to see fuel being sucked out!
There are two fuel tank systems (wings and centre) on the Extra, which comes in useful in such circumstances.
One never stops learning in aviation.